Finally last Friday (May 20) the long-awaited spring arrived in force. The most notable sign was the sudden presence of bright colours in the neighbourhood, in the form of spring flowers. Many people’s houses were suddenly surrounded by beds of purples, yellow, pinks and whites.
Though these flowers certainly provide a beautiful scene when viewed from afar, they provide a whole other level of enjoyment when looked at closely.
When you get up close and personal with the flowers, you can see the intricate arrangement of both the shape of the petals and the colours on them.
Both the 3-D arrangement of the petals (as in the Hedgenettle (Stachys sp.)below) and the arrangement of colours on the petals (as in the following Phlox and Primrose (Primula vulgaris)) are important for pollination. All of these factors act as signposts directing the pollinator to the nectar and pollen rewards, which in turn results in pollen being transferred to the flower for seed production.
Unfortunately not many pollinators were out buzzing around. However, with a little patience watching this clump of Purple Rockcress (Aubrieta deltoides) I observed a small insect arrive at one of the flowers. It turned out to be a solitary bee from the family Halictidae (also known as sweat bees). It visited a few flowers, always landing near the centre and working its’ way around the anthers, before moving on to the next patch of flowers.
Not all spring flowers are as obvious or flamboyant in their advertising for pollinators, many are much more subtle and need to be searched for.
A good example of this is the red currant (Ribes rubrum). It has small pale green flowers in hanging spikes that are often hidden below the leaves.
The flowers are actually quite pretty, though some of them harbour a potential danger, when inspected more closely!
Spiders often use flowers as cover in order to stalk and prey upon pollinators that visit the flowers. So the free nectar buffet offered to a pollinator may suddenly become its’ last supper!